Saturday, August 11, 2012

RECOVERY: Move Over Grandmas, Here Comes the Aquajogger

I've never minded looking foolish, and I often intentionally do goofy things to make people laugh or get a reaction.

Exhibit A to me not caring if I look stupid.  Trying to impersonate the Church Lady from Saturday Night Live with one of my Grandma's wigs that I found at my mom's house...
But I have to say that even I was a little self-conscious when I donned a purple Aquajogger belt and headed to the deep end of the pool where only the grannies venture with their flotation noodles for water aerobics class.  But alas, I've embraced my inner grannie and learned to love aquajogging, especially as a way to keep my cardio fitness in check while nursing an injury.

A few times after I started running again once as I recovered from my pneumonia, I had some very acute pains in my right knee that would force me to stop. The pain was so bad that I literally couldn't run.  Every time I'd bend my knee to swing my leg back, it was excruciating.  This happened during a 10k and then during a run while I was back in Nebraska.  For the first 15 minutes I felt fine and then out of now where, wham!  So long story short, I've stopped running for awhile upon my coach's advice until I can get an MRI and determine whether it's a torn meniscus or something else.  I've also been advised against biking.

So without running and biking I'm left with my least favorite of the three sports: swimming.  But, to avoid swimming every day while still keeping up what little fitness I had after my pneumonia, my coach also advised me to take up aquajogging, or I guess the more technical term is "deep water endurance running."

Aquajogging is exactly what it sounds like:  running in water like you're running on land.  It should be done in the deep end of the pool where your feet can't touch so that you more easily simulate the running mechanics.  (Running with your feet touching the bottom of the pool makes you bounce up and down and doesn't simulate the running mechanics as well, plus it adds impact, which defeats the rehabilitative purpose of aquajogging).  To do that, however, you need an aquajogging belt to keep you from sinking.  Enter, the Aquajogger Fit Belt...

The Aquajogger Fit Belt for women...the men's is blue. 
The Aquajogger Fit Belt is from, where else, the Aquajogger company.  Based on my research, this seemed to the best aquajogger belt out there, especially for women because it sits betters on our smaller waists.  The belt from Aquajogger retails for $50.95 (some sites sell it for a little less, so shop around).

Once you get your belt, then what?  Well, strap it on and head to the deep end of the pool.  Kick any noodle-using grannies out of your way and jump in. (Ok, I'm going a bit hard on the grannies...I actually took a water aerobics class once with some older women, where we used noodles, and I thought it was a good workout.  So I commend anyone getting in the water to get in shape).  Anyway, it doesn't take much getting used to.  The key is to remember to lean forward slightly while you're in the water - don't bend at the hip.  And then...start running.

There are a few things to keep in mind. First, don't pedal like you're on bike; really concentrate on mimicking your natural running motion.  Second, be careful not to stretch your legs out, down, or back too much.  Without the natural stoppage of the pavement, I noticed I had a tendency to push or stretch my leg down and back too far.  So make sure to keep your strides short and tight, as you would in running.  Third, although you're trying to mimic your running stride as much as possible, it's not going to be exactly the same.  You'll obviously be moving at a slower cadence because the water provides more resistance.  Plus, your legs may not behave just like they do on land.  For example, your leg kick won't be as high.  That's all fine.  Lastly, your heart rate will be about 10% lower in the water than on land.  So 140 bpm in the water would equal about 154 bpm on land.

So what are the benefits of aquajogging?  An article in explains:
  1. Aquajogging has long been recognized as a rehabilitation exercise for injured athletes. 
  2. It allows you to get a great cardio workout without the impact of the pavement, giving your body a much-needed break.  
  3. It elevates your heart rate and makes your muscles work harder.  Because water is thicker than air, you get more resistance and, thus, strengthen your muscles and tendons while still recovering from the impacts of regular running.  
  4. It's not your grandma's water aerobics.  (O.k., that's not really a benefit, but said it so I had to include it!). and many running coaches recommend aquajogging not only when you're injured, but also as part of your regular training.  Because of its many benefits, aquajogging can be a great way to take a break from one of your weekly runs, while still getting a good workout. recommends picking, for example, a three-mile run during the week, estimating how long that would take you, and aquajogging for that amount of time.    

My coach also referred me to a great 9-week aquajogging plan by Pete Pfitzinger (long distance running coach). This program has aquajogging 5 days a week, with strength or flexibility on the other 2 days, which I've used for swim days.  I honestly love it.  I thought I'd be bored running circles in the deep end of the pool, but with the interval training in the workouts, they actually fly by quicker than most of my runs!  

If you're a bit skeptical and think you should stick with your regular hard surface runs 100% of the time, just consider substituting an aquajog one day a week.  Read Pfitzinger's article on the benefits of aquajogging and how you can maintain your cardiovascular fitness, even during an 8-week hiatus from running.  

So while it may not be the coolest looking sport to do, aquajogging certainly has helped me keep my fitness.  Maybe if I really want to get a reaction out of people, I'll wear my Grandma's wig along with my Aquajogger belt the next time I go to the pool...

Have you tried aquajogging or are you willing to give it a try?  Let me know what you think....  


Jen said...

I haven't tried it, but I'm very keen to. I thought about it recently with the month off I took to deal with my heel problem (PF), but don't have pool access at present. Glad to hear such good things about it!

Carilyn said...

Alberto Salazar has his elite athletes, who can't maintain the necessary high mileage without sustaining an injury, aquajog regularly as part of their weekly mileage. I really like to aquajog, but I need music. And a big, floppy hat. And maybe a cute lifeguard :)

Life Through Endurance said...

Jen - if you try it, you have to send me a pic of you in your aqua jogging belt!

Carilyn - thanks so much for not making me feel quite so self conscious...if Salazar recommends it, then I must be doing something right!